We are delighted to be expecting another baby at the beginning of July. As well as all of the inevitable changes a new sibling will bring to our little family, it will be interesting to see the impact on our home language dynamics.
We are currently speaking Spanish at home as a family using the Minority Language at Home method. We originally decided on this technique to ensure S had a high level of Spanish language input. My husband is the native Spanish speaker and works full-time, whereas I took a years’ maternity leave and then decided to return to work part-time. We felt that the One Parent One Language method would mean English would easily dominate in our situation and luckily we both speak each others languages to a high level so were able to make a choice about our home language. As well as Spanish input from us at home, S has also had several Spanish babysitters and we speak to his Mexican family regularly via Skype. As an unexpected bonus we have also been lucky that his nursery has two Spanish-speaking staff members and seven other bilingual children who speak Spanish with one or more parents.
S is coming up to his fourth birthday in September and so far our journey in bilingualism has been quite successful. In fact despite having initially spoken very little English to S, especially in the first two years, he is equally proficient in both languages, although his vocabulary is slightly weaker in English. On the other hand he makes more grammar errors in Spanish, often conjugating irregular verbs as if they were regular. Despite code-switching being common among children of this age, S has generally always been quite clear about which language he needs to use depending on the people he is around and easily makes the switch between the two.
I have read that siblings tend to speak the majority language together, and although S always speaks to me and my husband in Spanish at home, when he plays on his own it is usually in English. We will be talking to S about him helping the new baby to learn Spanish and encouraging him to speak to her in Spanish too. I am quite confident that this will work well to begin with, although once he starts school full-time in September 2017 English will no doubt dominate.
I’d love to hear the stories and tips of other bilingual families and the impact of new sibling, especially those doing Minority Language at Home. Please do share your stories and links to more information. Thanks